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Voters to have say in East Hampton airport grantsVoters to have say in East Hampton airport grants

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill that requires the town of East Hampton on Long Island to seek the permission of local voters in a referendum before accepting many grants for improvements to the East Hampton Airport.

East Hampton Airport has long been the subject of acrimony over noise. Google Earth image.
East Hampton Airport has long been the subject of acrimony over noise. Google Earth image.

AOPA joined many members of the state’s aviation sector opposing the measure, which could snarl the flow of state or federal grants for safety improvements in a new layer of red tape—and in some cases, possibly place the airport out of compliance with safety-inspection mandates, said AOPA Eastern Regional Manager Sean Collins.

The new law’s requirement to hold a “permissive referendum” before accepting funds would apply to any grant contract involving agreements or obligations to be entered into by the town for 10 years or more “in connection with airport or aviation projects.”

“The passage of Assembly Bill 5523 is very disappointing,” Collins said after Cuomo signed the bill into law Oct. 23. “Although the town of East Hampton has no immediate plans to accept airport funding, this enactment stifles future town boards’ ability to accept airport aid, and sets a dangerous precedent for any municipality in need of airport funding.”

Opponents included the New York Aviation Management Association’s leadership, the Long Island Business Aviation Association, and the East Hampton Aviation Association—all of whom participated by attending various legislative meetings, contacting legislators, and informing the business aviation community about the bill’s likely impact.

The state legislature’s aviation caucus chairs, Sen. Phil Boyle (R-District 4) and Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (D-District 123), voted against the bill, and had urged Cuomo not to sign it.

Although the new law, which took effect on its signing, ties only the hands of East Hampton's town government to promptly procure federal or state aid for the municipal airport, similar measures might be sought by airport opponents elsewhere who see it as a new tactic for hindering the development of community airports, Collins said.

East Hampton, where numerous wealthy residents come and go by private aircraft, including many helicopter flights, has been the site of a variety of controversies over the years as some residents sought to limit airport operations or impose anti-noise restrictions.

Most recently, in June the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider an appeals court ruling that rejected local attempts to regulate noise and airport access as an infringement on federal authority to regulate public-use airports.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, Airport Advocacy, State Legislation

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